Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them.IX.
(1) No man knoweth.—If this verse stood by itself we should understand, “Man cannot know whether he will experience marks of the Divine favour, or the reverse;” but taking Ecclesiastes 9:6 into account, we understand of a man’s own love or hatred the objects of which he cannot tell beforehand.
By all.—Rather, all is before them.
This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead.(3) We have again the sentiments expressed in Ecclesiastes 2:14-16; Ecclesiastes 3:19; Ecclesiastes 5:15; Ecclesiastes 6:12.
For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.(4) There is a various reading here in the Hebrew. Our translators, following the older translators, adopt the reading of the margin. That of the text gives, instead of “joined,” a word signifying “chosen;” the best sense that can be given to which is to translate, “For who is excepted,” joining it with the previous verse, beginning this one, “To all the living,” &c. With regard to the statement of the following verses, comp. Psalm 6:3 and the marginal references there given. The shepherd’s dog is spoken of Job 30:1, and watchdogs Isaiah 56:10. Elsewhere in the Old Testament the dog is an unclean animal living or dead.
Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.(6, 7) Now.—Rather, long ago.
Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.(7) Accepteth.—The thought has been expressed before (Ecclesiastes 2:24; Ecclesiastes 8:15), that earthly enjoyment is to be received as given by God’s favour.
Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.-82Samuel 12:20; 2Samuel 14:2; Psalm 45:8; Psalm 104:14; Revelation 7:9.
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.(10) Thy hand findeth.—Leviticus 12:8; Judges 9:33; and margin, reff.
The grave.—Sheol (John 9:4).
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.-11Romans 9:16.
Chance.—Elsewhere only in 1Kings 5:4.
For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.-12Proverbs 7:23; Ezekiel 12:13; Hosea 7:12.
There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it:(14) Idle attempts have been made to find a historic reference in this passage. What is here told is so like the story (2 Samuel 20) of the deliverance of Abel-beth-Maachah by a wise woman, whose name, nevertheless, has not been preserved, that we cannot even be sure that the writer had any other real history in his mind.